First, what is SLIT? In simple terms, it is an alternative way to treat allergies such as to peanuts, without injections. An allergist simply places small does of a peanut allergen under the sufferers tongue to boost tolerance to peanuts and reduce symptoms.
This type of allergy is a real threat to many American’s. In fact, 1 in 13 children under age 18 suffer from a serious allergy and a total of 15 million Americans at a cost to our economy of an estimated $25 Billion annually. Every three minutes someone enters an emergency room in anaphylactic shock needing immediate attention.
There are eight foods account for the majority of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.
“Sublingual immunotherapy [SLIT] is an easy-to-administer treatment that appears to be safe, and with extended treatment, may provide a clinically significant amount of protection with the potential for a lasting effect,” one of the study authors, Edwin H. Kim, MD, said in an interview in advance of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Dr. A. Wesley Burks’s Food Allergy Initiative research group at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill indicated in an earlier study he and his associates published showed that SLIT could desensitize patients with peanut allergy, compared with placebo, after only 12 months of treatment. “However, the effect range was broad, with some tolerating the maximum tested 8-10 peanuts, some falling in the middle, and a few who were no better than placebo,” Dr. Kim said. “The current study is the long-term extension of that study, with the original 18 patients plus an additional 21 more completing 3-5 years of treatment. Our questions were 1) would a longer treatment course lead to a stronger effect, and 2) would the longer treatment course lead to a lasting effect?”
Of the 37 subjects who completed the study, 32 (86%) safely ingested more than 300 mg of peanut and 12 (32%) passed the oral food challenge at the end of SLIT therapy. The median amount of peanut tolerated was 1,750 mg (compared with 1,710 mg in the original 12-month paper). The 12 subjects who passed the oral food challenge were re-challenged with 5,000 mg of peanut 2-4 weeks after discontinuing SLIT. Of these, 10 (27%) demonstrated sustained unresponsiveness. Dr. Kim characterized the results as “better than we would have expected.”
Non-allergy sufferers often don’t understand a simply avoidance of peanuts is not really an answer. Many foods contain this allergen that are unknown to the victim, and perhaps even to the cook, chef or manufacturer of the food. An answer to this pervasive allergy would be most welcome to so many people.